This is a guest post by Genevieve Georget
So many of us grew up learning about the classics in school: “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Lord of the Flies,” “Romeo and Juliet.” We read books as a study of literature to learn theme and cadence and character development. We took English classes to perfect our grammar and punctuation and sentence structure. We see The New York Times Best-Sellers list, Pulitzer Prize winners, and Oprah’s Book Club selections — these books are filled with page after page of brilliant words, they are beautifully bound with elegant covers, and they are adorned with poetic testimonials.
In turn, we tend to take the word “writer” and place it in a very limited box. It’s generally the same box we reserve for Renaissance art or fine red wine. It’s the box that convinces us that writing is limited to the elite few who have either been gifted at birth or have spent years being academically trained. And this box is what so often holds us back from that lingering dream of one day writing a book of our own for the first time. So we shy away even though we know we have stories to tell and words to express. We allow the narrative that says we aren’t writers to stop us from actually becoming writers. It turns out that this isn’t just a box or a limiting belief; this is a sign of imposter syndrome, a very common affliction that nearly 70% of people experience at some point during their lives.
So how do you overcome those feelings and write the story you were meant to write?
How to Beat Imposter Syndrome and Start Writing a Book
Other than those who write professionally, very rarely have I met a person who instinctively calls themselves a writer. But I have met dozens of people who put pen to paper on a daily basis — both privately and publicly — and struggle to identify themselves as writers.
This experience raises the question: Is there an unspoken marker that society says needs to be met in order to become writers? Perhaps it’s a fine art or creative writing degree. Perhaps it’s being paid to put words on paper. Maybe it’s the accolades of peers. Whatever it is, this invisible qualifier is keeping artists everywhere from sharing stories that the world desperately needs to hear.
I’ve always been one to believe that “if you write, you are, therefore, a writer.” But evidently, much of the world believes that statement isn’t so cut-and-dried.
After spending two decades putting my own words to paper and spending the past five years supporting others to do the same, I would like to offer an alternative perspective to a world filled with artists struggling to wave their own flags: There is a difference between storytelling and writing.
Writing, by definition, is the skill of marking coherent words on paper and composing text. Storytelling, on the other hand, is the act of telling or writing stories. A perfectly written press release can give a lot of facts. But a truly honest story can change lives.
In short, writing focuses on how you write; storytelling focuses on what you write. And for those with sci-fi fantasy or nonfiction prose lingering deep within their hearts, this difference matters. Because by the very nature of simply having lived, everyone is a storyteller and can start writing a book.
How to Approach Writing a Book as a Storyteller
With this new perspective in mind, how can you now approach your dream of writing a book? Here are some things you should know before writing a book:
1. Focus on sensory detail.
When you solely focus on the writing, it can be easy to get lost in the details of grammar and sentence structure. The overwhelming desire to be a perfect writer can, in and of itself, stop you before you even begin. Instead, focus on sharing your story through sensory details. When you start writing a book, think about what you remember seeing, smelling, or hearing in the moment that you’re giving readers. This kind of sensory experience draws readers in much more than a well-placed comma.
2. Imagine having a conversation.
One of the best ways to avoid getting overwhelmed by limiting thoughts around your skills or the whispers of imposter syndrome is to simply imagine having a conversation with someone. Picture yourself sitting across a table from a close friend or family member and sharing your story with them. The intimacy that comes with visualizing one person will translate into the words you’re sharing, naturally seeping through to your reader, as well.
3. Use your story to practice your craft.
So many people get held back from writing a book for the first time because they feel as though they have to perfect the skill of writing. But when you approach book writing from the perspective of storytelling, then you end up using your book as an opportunity to practice the craft, therefore bettering yourself as a writer and storyteller at the same time. The only way to truly refine your artistic voice, both technically and emotionally, is by using it as much as possible.
Approaching book writing from the perspective of storytelling eliminates the need to feel qualified to do so. Humans are born storytellers. It’s what we live. It’s what we breathe. It’s what we know. So you already have every qualification necessary to put your story out into the world.
Your job isn’t to have perfect knowledge of the English language or the Chicago Manual of Style. (That’s what editors are for!) Your job is to show up and share your story with as much authenticity as possible and allow others not only to experience your story, but also to become a part of it.
About the Guest Post Author
Genevieve Georget is an executive editor at Round Table Companies, the publisher of Conscious Capitalism Press. She is a full-time storyteller whose work as a writer and photographer has been seen on Oprah.com, “The Good Mother Project,” “Love in the Rockies,” “Wedding Bells Magazine,” the “Huffington Post,” and among her online community of 35,000 people. Genevieve’s first book, “Her Own Wild Winds,” was published in September 2016 and her second book, “Solace,” was released in the fall of 2019.